I am going to take some time out of the monthly theme to talk to you about this thing which is a very important thing to me and to others who are POC/differently abled/differently oriented (sexually). There is nothing, (okay, I am exaggerating because there are some things but for the purpose of this article, let’s pretend there isn’t) that annoys me more than when people mention the increasing diversity in mainstream media and literature, the increasing visibility of POC/sexual orientations/differently abled people in mainstream media and literature as a “trend.”
I am certain other people have articulated and probably more eloquently than me how offensive it is that representation of your culture/race/ethnicity/sexuality/disabilities is considered a trend. But because I cannot keep my trap shut when my mind wants to write words, I am going to add my $2 to the argument.
It is a bit jarring to sit in a room and be the only person of colour (I can’t speak for a different sexuality but I reckon the experience is much the same) and it can be intimidating to voice an objection to what no one else seems to have a problem with: namely “the diversity trend.” It is also impossible to sit quietly when someone else makes a deprecating remark about a name that obviously belongs to a POC.
Let me explain why referring to diversity as a trend is problematic:
- Speaking of diversity as a trend implies that the representation is transient and will end after a period of time. Hint: People of colour, different sexualities, and disabilities aren’t going anywhere no matter how much you wish them to.
- The word “trend” trivializes the issue, reducing it to the level of say, dystopian novels. Dystopian novels are a trend; vampires are a trend; diversity is a fact of life.
- Referring to diversity as a trend increases the chances of tokenism and commercializes the issue. Instances of cultural appropriation occur when people try to profit off diversity because it is the “thing to do.” So people try to represent people and voices they have no business representing and with no motive in mind except profit. In case you didn’t realize it, this kind of representation is problematic.
People who belong to the hegemonic group are usually not aware of the privilege they have. This may seem like an unnecessarily harsh comment to make but that does not lessen the truth inherent in the statement.
Things To Be Aware Of
- POC usually cannot be present on book covers without either being in silhouette or having their faces cut off.
- POC/people with different sexual orientations/disabilities are often killed first whether in movies or books.
- POC, if present, are often in subservient roles in books/movies. They are always side characters and expendable for all their importance.
Diversity and representation are not transient issues that will fade once the new fad hits the mainstream media. Diversity and representation are issues that are gaining momentum as people grow more aware of their power as consumers. Neo-colonialism exists in complex layers and in multiple places. As we move further into the new millennium and social structure shifts to take into account newly educated voices who demand to see themselves represented in the culture they, too, consume, diversity becomes imperative.
Unless there’s an earthquake or plague that wipes out all POC and people with different sexuality, and people with disabilities, leaving behind a homogeneous population, diversity, I repeat, is going nowhere. So the next time you go to refer to diversity as a trend? Don’t.